Hi. I’m Randall. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1975 when I was a freshman in college. It wasn’t long before I was dungeonmastering. I ran roleplaying games almost every week from 1976 to 1992 or so — mostly some form of Dungeons & Dragons carefully tailored with lots of house rules to fit my own campaign world in the early years. In later years when the real world of 40+ hour a week jobs intruded on my roleplaying time, I learned the joys of classic D&D (the Mentzer Basic, Expert, Companion, and Masters sets) and its Known World setting.
With Classic D&D and the Known World setting, I could run a campaign with relatively few house rules — well, few compared to the large books of house rules I used for my own world in Original D&D and First Edition Advanced D&D. This let me spend my much more limited time creating interesting adventures for my players instead of spending time creating house rules and my own campaign world. The streamlined, fast play of Classic D&D also meant we could get a lot of adventuring in a single 4 or 5 hour game session — probably as much as we used to get in those early 12 hour session.
After 1992, it started getting harder and harder to get the group together. We were all older and busier. Instead of weekly sessions, we were lucky to get two sessions in a month. By late 1994, it was over. No one had any time and we just quite playing.
When I heard that Wizards of the Coast had bought TSR and was bringing out a third edition of D&D, I was excited. I pre–ordered the three new core rulebooks from Amazon and read them as they came in. Sadly, I was very disappointed. D&D 3.0 was a rules heavy monster that made character building and tactical miniatures combat so detailed and important that I figured these aspects would overwhelm the game. Instead of feeling like a good fantasy novel, third edition reminded me most of a computer role-playing game — only one where the players and gamemaster had to all the number-crunching that the computer would normally do behind the scenes.
That wasn’t anything I was interested in playing. I put the books on the shelf and went on with my no roleplaying life. I picked up the 3.0 Forgotten Realms setting book because I had always like the setting and enjoyed many of the novels. A friend gave me a copy of the Epic Level Handbook hoping that would get me interested again. It didn’t. (The only published version of D&D that seemed top get high level play right, IMHO, was Mentzer’s Classic D&D.)
Before I knew it, WotC had published version 3.5 of D&D. From flipping through copies at the bookstore coffee shop, I saw that everything I did not like about third edition D&D had become even more important in 3.5. I never bought a copy of any 3.5 product as 3.5 was barely anything like the D&D I knew and loved.
Late last summer, someone on one of the religion/philosophy message boards I hang out on mentioned that WotC was bringing out D&D 4.0 in 2008. He was upset as he had a couple of thousand dollars in D&d 3.5 books and supposedly 4.0 was going to be so major a change that it would make them all useless. I read some of the material on fourth edition on the WotC site and on EN World. As far as I can tell, 4th edition will be a completely different game being sold under the D&D name because people know the D&D name. From what I’ve seen, it isn’t anything I’d be interested in.
However, while investigating the upcoming version of D&D, I made a wonderful discovery. There were people out there like me who enjoyed the older versions of D&D. I discovered Labyrinth Lord, a modern day “remake” of Basic/Expert Set Classical D&D by Goblinoid Games — made possible by the Open Gaming License WotC started using with D&D 3.0. I downloaded the free pdf of Labyrinth Lord, printed it and read it. Actually, devoured it might be a more accurate description. I was very impressed — for all practical purposes, Labyrinth Lord was Basic/Expert D&D.
From reading the Goblinoid Games forum, I discovered web sites like Dragonsfoot and the Knights-n-Knaves Alehouse where a number of gamers from my era hung out and discussed old role-playing games. Best of all, I discovered that while the old versions of D&D were out of print, WotC had made them available in PDF format for extremely reasonable prices. As the games were still available, they did not have to die off. I’ve started RetroRoleplaying.com to be a portal to older pre-D20 RPGs. A place where people can see what they were like and find out how people have played them and are still playing them. This is a huge job that may take years to complete, but it’s a way I can contribute something to a hobby that has given me a great deal of pleasure over the years.